M.F.A. Artists Showcase Thesis Projects in Campus Exhibition

Friday, April 20, 2018
Photo of four Master of Fine Arts candidates

Amy Cella, Jeannie Field Ichimura, Jenna Meacham and Leslie Samson-Tabakin have thrived in the strenuous, three-year Master of Fine Arts program in the School of Art. Now they’re preparing for their final showcase: the annual Master of Fine Arts Thesis Exhibition in the Fine Arts Gallery. It opens Saturday, April 21, with a reception from 1pm to 3pm. It remains on display through Saturday, May 12, and is open Tuesdays – Fridays from 11am to 4pm. Admission is free.

Fine Arts Gallery Interim Director Sharon E. Bliss says she is always impressed how the artists have developed their practice throughout grad school. “Some have deepened their study in the area that brought them here, while others, inspired by the interdisciplinary nature of the program, now incorporate different strategies into their work,” she says. “The small size of the program, and neighboring studios, allow for the M.F.A.s to build tight bonds with each other and their faculty, and as well to inspire, teach and learn from the studio art undergrads.”

We checked in with all four of the artists to learn about their inspirations and experiences.

Jenna Meacham

An affinity for the Missed Connections of Craigslist informs Meacham’s photographs, installations and sculptures. “It perfectly embodies the human condition,” she says of the only remaining portion of the online message board’s personals section.

Raised in Palmdale, a small desert town north of Los Angeles, Meacham will be the first person in her family to receive a postgraduate degree. Meacham teaches photography at SF State and has taught high school art classes. This summer she’ll teach a workshop at San Francisco Art Institute.

Meacham’s advice for undergraduates considering an M.F.A. program is to consider its community, which can help foster an amazing art practice. She cites faculty members Sean McFarland, Mike Arcega and Libby Black as being instrumental to her growth and success. After graduation, she intends to continue teaching and making art.

Amy Cella

Cella came to the M.F.A. program as a painter. Professor Gwen Allen’s Art Since 1945 class opened her eyes to the possibilities of art beyond painting and sculpture.

“I learned about the dematerialization of art and how artists use writing as part of their practice,” Cella says. “This transformed my practice. Now my thesis show is a series of digital images mounted to plexiglass that examine what a photograph is today.”

She says she has benefitted from studying with instructors who exhibit their art in the Bay Area.

“Sean McFarland has been a huge inspiration for me. His Professional Practices class last semester gave me a behind-the-scenes look at his artistic practice here in San Francisco while he was organizing his solo show at Casemore Kirkeby,” Cella says. “Understanding the thought behind his installation gave me a way to think about my own thesis show installation in the Fine Arts Gallery.”

Leslie Samson-Tabakin

Similar to poetry and memes, Leslie Samson-Tabakin’s paintings and sculptures explore complexities of human emotion and existentialism, “narrated by a critically self-aware individual longing for connection.”

She chose to attend SF State because she would be able to work closely with a talented faculty.

“Susan Belau has been an amazing adviser for my art and also has taught me a lot about teaching patience, and balance. I am especially grateful to my thesis committee: Professors Chris Finley, Mike Arcega, and Gail Dawson,” the Hilo, Hawaii, native says. “The faculty are genuine and dedicated to helping School of Art students succeed and become prolific and compassionate artists.”

After graduation, Tabakin plans to apply to residencies, teach printmaking and be part of an artist studio and community.

Jeannie Field Ichimura

This Sacramento native has lived in cities around the U.S. and in Japan. She moved to San Francisco in 2001 with her husband, SF State Chemistry and Biochemistry Associate Professor Andrew Ichimura. They have two teenage daughters.

Ichimura is inspired by social trends that detail the female sense of self and how it morphs and changes with age. Her source of inspiration comes from the stories she hears in conversation with friends and family, young and old. Camping, singing with her daughters and going to drag shows also spark Ichimura’s creativity.

Her aspirations after graduation are to continue to exhibit her work and teach ceramics at a college or university.

— Ufuoma Umusu


Photo, from left: M.F.A. candidates Leslie Samson-Tabakin, Jenna Meacham, Amy Cella and Jeannie Field Ichimura. Photo courtesy of the School of Art.

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